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PIONEER VIEWPOINTS: Looking to the future

Several local news items of the past few weeks featured a familiar theme. The future.

For years, various health, wellness and sports enthusiasts have yearned for more facilities in Bemidji to meet their needs. This includes more ice rinks and playing fields, indoor and outdoor, as well as tennis facilities and a YMCA-like space.

Plans are now underway to turn those wishes into reality as Sanford Health and Greater Bemidji are working toward a project that could include the amenities listed above. Sanford leaders have agreed to donate land on its campus in north Bemidji, as well as up to $10 million toward the project.

This won't happen overnight, of course, and will take years to develop. A task force of city, county, civic and business leaders will first take in information and formulate a plan on how to pull off a project of this scope. Once completed, more than likely in phases, the health and sports complex will be another asset for the Greater Bemidji region.

“This will position Bemidji as the epicenter of youth sports in Northern Minnesota,” Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji’s executive director, told reporter Joe Bowen in the Pioneer's story last week. “The potential facility would bring visitors, and position our region to attract the talent all of our companies need.”

Here's some other "future" observations:

  • With nearly 18 years at the helm of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, Lori Paris recently announced she will retire as Chamber President at the end of 2017. The next seven months will be a time of strategic planning and recruitment for Paris' successor for the Chamber. Paris has been a strong advocate for Bemidji's business community, as well as Bemidji as a whole. She has tirelessly worked to make Bemidji a better place for business, and, in turn, a better place for all of us. We wish her the best in retirement.
  • Speaking of retirement, Wayne Thorson never let that slow him down in his contributions to the Bemidji community. Thorson, who owned and operated his asphalt and aggregate supplying company Thorson Inc. from 1958-2002, was presented last week with the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce's Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award. Thorson was rightfully selected to receive the prestigious award for all his contributions to various Bemidji organizations, including the BSU Foundation, WoodsEdge Senior Campus, North Country Health Services, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota and First Lutheran Church.
  • Once again, Paul Bunyan Communications again demonstrated the definition of a strong corporate citizen with its annual fish fry event. Expected to draw 7,000 people, pulling off that type of event -- free to the community -- is a remarkable feat. It's an event marked on calendars throughout the region and it truly does bring people together.
  • And when you mention large crowds, we would be remiss to not remark on the turnout Saturday morning for the Bemidji High School graduation ceremony. Nearly every seat was taken at the Sanford Center as family and friends were there to see the Class of 2017 receive their diplomas.
  • Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess reminded the students that wherever they may now go, there will always be a home for them back in Bemidji.